British Columbia

Downtown Ambassadors to face B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear a complaint that Vancouver's controversial Downtown Ambassadors program discriminates against homeless people.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear a complaint that Vancouver's controversial Downtown Ambassadors program discriminates against homeless people.

The Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users launched the complaint against the private security guards who patrol the streets.

Laura Track, staff lawyer for the Pivot Legal Society, said the ambassadors "act very much like homeless police" because they tell people who sit, sleep or panhandle on sidewalks to move along, and that they are not welcome.

The City of Vancouver and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association tried to get the complaint thrown out. But Track said she is pleased those efforts failed.

"We're thrilled that the tribunal has considered that this complaint has merit and has a possibility of succeeding at a full hearing. And we're really pleased that the tribunal has rejected the respondents' applications to dismiss the case without even having a hearing," said Track.

Charles Gauthier, spokesman for the Downtown Vancouver BIA, which co-manages the ambassadors with a private security firm, remains optimistic the complaint will fail.

"We're still quite confident that the program will be exonerated. We haven't seen any evidence presented by Pivot Legal Society or VANDU that basically support the allegations that they've made."

A schedule for the hearing has not been set.

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